After being away from Real Housewives of Orange County for two seasons, veteran cast member Tamra Judge made a bold re-entry to the show and ended the season with a bang at this week’s reunion, at one point telling Andy Cohen to “f-ck off” and instructing him to “be quiet”.
On Wednesday’s second half of the season 17 reunion, Tamra and Heather Dubrow were going back and forth about whether it was her or Heather that was responsible for calling the rest of the ladies on the cast “losers” – a storyline that had plagued the season in recent weeks. When Tamra recounted to the cast the instance in which she said it, insisting it was in jest, Andy pointed out that she had said terrible things about the women all season long – as well as during the two seasons she wasn’t even on the show.
“But we’re not talking about that, so f-ck off,” she quipped.
The faces of her castmates said it all. Even Shannon Beador, who is a close friend of Tamra’s after the pair rebuilt their relationship this season, looked shocked and appalled as Andy calmly tried to point out it was a double standard.
“Why are you trying to throw a wrench in it?” Tamra asked Andy, as he again, explained that she had been guilty of calling the women losers, too, at which point Tamra told him to “be quiet”.
Within an instant, the conversation continued, as if Tamra did not just verbally assault the executive producer of her show and a person who is very much her boss – and also the moderator of the conversation. And this raised a lot of eyebrows, not only on the couch, but on social media from the show’s audience, particularly among those who are familiar with Tamra’s shady tactics.
“She treated Andy the way she treats everyone else. She got busted by Andy and her default is screaming; she thinks it takes the heat off of her. I’m surprised he didn’t come back at her. Will she be back after that is the question,” one user commented under the video.
“Oh fire Tamra now please. You don’t tell Andy to F off,” another user said.
“Yes!! That was rude. It’s Andy! That’s her boss and he’s not on the show/cast! He’s not part of “the game”. She was out of line for that!” said another.
Considering the fact that we’ve seen Andy snap back at housewives before, his lack of reaction to what most longtime viewers of the show would consider one of the most blatant forms of disrespect was puzzling.
The comment sections of videos recounting this moment are full of viewers highlighting other instances where Andy has been in heated exchanges with other housewives, like earlier this year during the April taping of the Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion where he snapped at Teresa Giudice. But as the comment sections highlighted instances where he was berated by other housewives, I noticed that all the housewives mentioned were white.
The timing of this is interesting, as it comes on the heels of a two-part interview that NeNe Leakes did with Bethenny Frankel on her Just B podcast, where she touched on the double standard of Black housewives versus white ones. During her conversation with Bethenny, NeNe made a strong case for something I’ve argued here on LG before – which is that Black housewives are held to a higher standard than the white cast members.
"There's so many girls that are doing things," NeNe said. "You had Teresa flipping a table. You had Teresa pushing Andy down. You had girls busting glasses. You got people doing all kinds of stuff. But me grabbing the camera guy's shirt. They act as if it was so freaking major."
During the season 2 reunion of Real Housewives of New Jersey, Teresa got into a heated altercation with Danielle Staub. In an effort to put some distance between the two women, Andy stood up and acted as a human shield. But Teresa pushed him down back into his seat and continued on her tangent.
The incident NeNe is referring to with her grabbing the camera operator’s shirt happened in season 11 of Real Housewives of Atlanta. NeNe recalled being pushed by production to have a party against her will because they needed an all-cast scene. At the time, her husband Gregg Leakes was going through cancer treatment and she described really not being up to it, saying she was at her “lowest”, but giving into the pressure anyway, under the agreement that the cameras would not go past certain parameters, which included her closet. When the cast members ended up going into her closet, the cameras followed and she pulled the cameraman back, demanding they not film in there and says the fallout from her extracting them was “blown” out of proportion.
"I personally think when Brown girls do something it is much more elevated than when you nice, vanilla-looking girls are doing something," she told Bethenny.
We also saw something similar with the fight between Monique and Candiace on Real Housewives of Potomac. Immediately following that episode, viewers were quick to toss words like “ghetto” and “trashy” around on social media. But when Ashlee Holmes pulled Danielle Staub’s extensions out of her head in a 2010 episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey, fans flocked to social media to talk about how good the entertainment was.
In her chat with Bethenny, NeNe explained that unlike Teresa, Ashlee, Monique and Candiace, she had never put a hand on someone during her time on Real Housewives of Atlanta and brought her issues to production. When she did, though, she noticed she would be punished with reduced episodes.
There’s a few things at play here – there’s the change in audience reaction to people assaulting, whether physically or verbally, other castmates, or in this case, Andy Cohen himself. Considering the timing of those altercations, with one happening way back in season 2 and the other happening in season 11 of Real Housewives of New Jersey and Real Housewives of Atlanta, respectively, people have begun to see for themselves the double standard in effect, whether on the part of Andy or the audience. A lot of that has to do with the growing discourse around the housewives, with entire podcasts set up to discuss the happenings of reality TV, and also thanks to housewives no longer involved in the franchise speaking up about their experiences, much like NeNe did on the podcast.
But the other thing at play here is Andy’s reaction, and what it means, and what that reaction might have been if it were a Black housewife that told him to “f-ck off” and “be quiet”. In the past, Andy has addressed instances like the one between him and Tamra on episodes of Watch What Happens Live or Radio Andy, so perhaps we’ll have to wait and see whether he’ll say anything about the matter in the coming days.
But it’s not looking like anything else will come of it – because almost immediately after being cursed out by Tamra, the pair were hugging and talking about their plans to see each other next week, and that’s where I think we’re seeing the double standard in effect.
Andy has always maintained much closer relationships with the white housewives than he has the Black ones outside of the show. I always chalked it up to geography, with more of the Black franchises being located in places like Potomac, MD and Atlanta. But geography aside, if his relationships with the housewives render Tamra’s behaviour appropriate, that’s a much larger conversation about workplace boundaries that needs to be had. Perhaps that’s why there’s some decent support for Bethenny’s ongoing fight to get a union together for reality TV stars – because the boundaries are awfully murky, and we see that clearly in this instance.
People tend to treat reality TV as this mythical, otherworldly series of productions that is a very exaggerated version of our society. But the over-criminalization of Black women who do the same thing as their white counterparts on these shows is a direct reflection of how privilege operates in our society. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the workplace and saw white women who had good relationships with a boss we shared get away with saying and doing things that I could never even dare to say or do, and have access to privileges that I will likely never see in my lifetime.
While I’m mindful of the fact that sometimes there can be a delay in figuring out how to respond to an interaction like this, Tamra’s behaviour, as well as Andy’s lack of a reaction or statement about it, reinforces much of what NeNe said in the podcast. But if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that allowing Tamra back for yet another season without acknowledging her behaviour towards him on this year’s reunion is very much a statement in itself.
We're talking about this on The Squawk.